Four friends and I gathered together last night for a Frutivale five burrito showdown. We usually hit up El Ojo de Agua about once a week. Their burritos are the best that we've found in the neighborhood, and it's well-worth the trek from the confines of Rockridge to get some mind-blowingly amazing burritos. But we often forget that El Ojo is but one taqueria amidst many in Fruitvale, so we decided to give some of the others a try. We ordered a regular al pastor burrito from each place, hold the sour cream. We took the burritos home, cut 'em up and we all sampled our finds.
3872 International Blvd
El Rincon Jarocho
(Formerly El Ojo de Agua restaurant, across from El Otaez)
3646 International Blvd
Taqueria San Jose
3433 International Blvd
El Ojo de Agua (truck)
12th St./Fruitvale Ave.
El Otaez got dinged for too much meat (and chewy, boo). Their burrito also had pineapple in it, which seemed to overpower the meat flavor, rather than accompany it. It just wasn't that great. (Also, its horchata got bad reviews too.)
El Rincon had sliced onions, which were a nice touch, but the meat was overall pretty boring, and they included sour cream, when we specifically asked (in Spanish) to not include. We weren't that impressed. (That said, we found out that the owner used to work at El Ojo and has kept that menu and added a bunch of Veracruz plates, which seemed to be what everyone else was getting. We'll have to go back to sample some of the seafood dishes.)
El Farolito's burrito got points for including bits of a whole avocado, but we all felt that its taste was too "clean," when compared with El Ojo or San Jose. There wasn't much interestingness to the texture of the filling, nor the meat. That said, everything else was very solid.
Taqueria San Jose, by contrast, had crispy meat that was clear that it had been cooked twice. That texture alone was what we realized we'd been missing from all the other ones. The spiced pork danced in our mouths and it was well-balanced with beans and rice. (Our resident Latina, Monica, quipped that she really wanted San Jose's meat in a Farolito burrito.) There remained some discussion as to which would be the appropriate number two.
El Ojo de Agua, by contrast, remained the champion. There just isn't a match for its consistently delicious fullness, balanced spice, and completely delicious meat. The melted cheese, the beans, the rice, everything comes together in a concoction of utterly satisfying proportions. And did I mention that it's only $4.25? (Monica said that none of these beat her longtime East Bay favorite, burritos from Chavez Market in Hayward.)
Photos are here: http://flickr.com/photos/cfarivar/tag...